As a young man, over fifty years ago, I was privileged to vote in favour of the longed for unity of the church – at least between the Church of England and Methodist Church. Sadly, the vote was lost, even though a majority in both churches voted in favour.
Various conversations had been taking place since the beginning of the 20th century and are still continuing. The various strands of Methodism achieved a union in the early 1930s but there were still some who chose to stay outside and remain so still. The Church of South India, a union of several protestant churches, was formed in 1947, and there have been other successful unions around the world, but to date in the UK we still dream.
Over the intervening years I have come to the conclusion that the way forward will probably need to start locally rather than nationally, and maybe our new situation is the opportunity to make it happen.
As Robert Maguire suggests, on the following page, to those outside any of our Christian denominations, we would seem to share so much belief that to remain separated does not make sense.
There has to be a way for us all to journey forward together in worship and work in the service of God and of his community here in Broadstone and, indeed, in each and every community.
Again as a young man, my home town’s Council of Churches (as it was then) worked together very well and when our local Methodist church building, despite much fundraising for seemingly never ending repairs over many years, was once again in need of a large sum of money, the Anglican rector suggested that we consider sharing the 12th century parish church with them. We needed to compromise on one or two things but we agreed to accept the invitation. It required an Act of Parliament to enable it to happen and for St Michael’s to be officially an Anglican and a Methodist building. At the time it was recognised as the oldest Methodist church building in the world. We had separate worship each Sunday morning with 3o minutes between in which the two congregations got to know each other over a cup of tea or coffee and gradually did more together. When I go home now the building’s status remains the same but the congregation is one and the Rector is also the Methodist minister. In Newhaven, East Sussex, my home town, what in my younger days was eight places of worship are now, by sharing and closures, four.
Large sums of money continue to be raised for maintenance and for new buildings, yet between us there is more than enough accommodation and with room to grow. A philosophy of sharing would free up resources for expanded outreach of love and care in the community and among all of God’s children.
The dream can be achieved. We now have this window of opportunity; let us all pledge ourselves to work at solving any issues that stand in the way. The train is still standing at the station, the engine has been warmed up, it just needs us to get on board, so that our God can wave the green flag.